Operation Brasstacks happened without PM Rajiv's approval: Book
The Times of India TIMES NEWS NETWORK Aug 02 2014
But Did Singh Mix Up Dates In Account?
Minister of state for defence Arun Singh and Chief of Army Staff Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji had gone ahead with Operation Brasstacks, the code name for extensive military exercises carried out by the army in 1986 and 1987 on the Indo-Pak border, without the knowledge of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, says a new book.
In his just-released book, “One life is not enough: An Autobiography”, Congres leader Natwar Singh recalls a conversation with Rajiv Gandhi
in January 1986 when the two were on the way to airport to receive Afghanistan President Najibullah. “On the way to Palam, to my utter surprise, Rajiv said, ‘Natwar, are we about to go to war with Pakistan?’” The Prime Minister had asked the question in the context of Brasstacks. Natwar further writes, “Operation Brasstacks had become a problem.
Several versions of Operation Brasstacks exist. I will give mine for what’s worth.” Two facts need to be pointed out though. One, Najibullah was not president of Afghanistan in January 1986; he became one only in September 1987. Babrak Karmal was Afghanistan’s president from 1979 to May 1986. Second, newspaper reports say that Operation Brasstacks was carried out between the second half of 1986 and the first half of 1987. In fact, there are field reports published by New York Times and Los Angeles Times on the desert war games in March 1987. Could Rajiv be discussing the subject as early as January 1986 then?
Nonetheless, Natwar Singh writes, “I told Rajiv Gandhi, in my capacity as minister of state for external affairs, that the ministry of external affairs knew nothing about this. The Prime Minister said that neither did he. I was appalled. Apparently, Arun Singh and Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji had acted without his approval.“
He further writes, “The Prime Minister asked me and ND Tiwari, the external affairs minister, to call the US and Soviet ambassadors and request them for detailed information on Pakistan troop movements, based on their satellite surveillance. The US and Soviet envoys soon reported that there was nothing to suggest that the Pakistan Army had assumed offensive positions on the border. The PM called a meeting to discuss the outcome of our discussion with the embassies in which ND Tiwari, Arun Singh, ML Fotedar, Lt Gen Hazari and I were present. I placed the information given by the ambassadors before the PM. Arun Singh questioned the efficiency of the American and Russian satellites. This was laughable. Rajiv accepted what Tiwari and I said.” “After the meeting, he asked Tiwariji and me to stay back. Turning to Tiwariji, he said, “What do I do with my minister of state for defence?” The external affairs minister looked at me and kept silent.
Rajiv Gandhi then sought my view. I told him that he should sack the minister. “Arun Singh is a friend,” was his response.
With some firmness I said, “Sir, you are not the President of the Old Boys’ Association of Doon School. You are the Prime Minister of India. PM have no friends.”
Dates mixed up in Singh's narrative?
In his book, Natwar Singh recalls a conversation with Rajiv Gandhi in January 1986 when the two were on their way to meet Afghanistan President Najibullah. “Rajiv said, “Natwar, are we about to go to war with Pakistan?“ He had spoken in the context of Operation Brasstacks. But Najibullah was not president of Afghanistan in January 1986; he took the post only in September 1987. Also, Brasstacks was carried out between the second half of 1986 and the first half of 1987. Could Rajiv be discussing the subject as early as January 1986 then?